LONDON: BBC Arabic has remained tight-lipped over the details of a recent report accusing it of having an overtly anti-Israeli bias.
An investigation by the Jewish Chronicle titled, “Shame of BBC Arabic as systematic bias revealed,” highlighted the Arabic-language news channel’s consistent use of anti-Semitic and “Hamas-inspired language.”
A BBC spokesperson strongly rejected claims of compromised impartiality and said: “BBC Arabic shares exactly the same principles of accuracy and impartiality as BBC News in English.”
Chairman of the UK-based nonprofit organization Muslims Against Anti-Semitism, Ghanem Nuseibeh, told Arab News: “BBC Arabic has been very pro-Islamist in its coverage. In particular, it has been pushing and at times promoting Muslim Brotherhood (MB) narratives across the world but more specifically in countries where the MB are outlawed.
“This influences the Muslim and Arabic speaking street and indirectly legitimates the anti-Semitic and other extremist discourse that comes out of the MB. The BBC needs to look hard at the great disservice the Arabic channel does to its brand, particularly as a UK taxpayer organization.”
The BBC is funded by a standard TV license, currently £157.50 ($217.85), paid by all residents in the UK. According to the BBC’s website, this allowed the network to “remain free of advertisements and independent of shareholder and political interest.”
On its stated values, the network included being “independent, impartial, and honest.”
The Jewish Chronicle probe into BBC Arabic — the largest foreign language service that falls under the BBC World Service — showcased the difference between the Arabic and English language services.
The findings of the lengthy report revealed that the Arabic service had to be corrected 25 times over the past two years, an average of one correction every month since 2018.
Investigators claimed that anti-Israeli bias on BBC Arabic was apparent in the language used in dispatches, broadcasts, and reports that reached at least 37 million viewers every week.
Examples included references to Jerusalem as “the occupied city,” the Israeli army as the “Israeli occupation forces,” and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as “the Palestinian Resistance,” for which the BBC has since apologized for.
The BBC needs to look hard at the great disservice the Arabic channel does to its brand, particularly as a UK taxpayer organization.
Ghanem Nuseibeh, Chairman of the UK-based NGO Muslims Against Anti-Semitism
Another case highlighted was the publishing of a map of the Middle East in which Israel was completely erased.
The report also accused the channel of showcasing extreme views without challenging them and pointed to a BBC Arabic “Newsnight” interview with exiled-cleric Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, who was featured in Arab News’ Preachers of Hate series.
During the interview, Al-Qaradawi praised suicide bombings in Israeli-occupied Palestine as martyrdom in the name of God.
At the time, he said: “I supported martyrdom operations, and I am not the only one. Hundreds of Islamic scholars supported these operations. We were in the International Islamic Fiqh Academy in Kuwait and hundreds of scholars signed a fatwa (supporting such operations).”
Another allegation suggested the channel was being used as a platform for British-Palestinian analyst Abdel Bari Atwan who on one occasion said on Lebanese TV that if Iran attacked Israel he would “go to Trafalgar Square and dance with delight.”
According to the Jewish Chronicle investigation, the BBC covered a total of 34 fatal attacks on Israeli citizens between 2015 and 2020, while BBC Arabic only reported on 25, which it claimed showed the divide between the different language services.
The network’s Arabic language channel was founded as a radio station in 1938 and BBC Arabic had employed a correspondent who was previously working for Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV, the report said.
Hezbollah, an Iran-backed Lebanese militia, is designated as a terrorist group in the UK — with its mouthpiece Al-Manar TV blocked by Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites. Hezbollah’s mission statement includes retaking Jerusalem and destroying Israel.
Such a premise was showcased on BBC Arabic in May 2019, when the channel aired social media comments that celebrated Egyptian sci-fi drama “El-Nehaya” — a show that envisioned Israel’s destruction.
The BBC spokesperson added: “BBC Arabic’s team of experienced editors and journalists come from across the Middle East and around the world and are subject to the same strict editorial guidelines that shape all of BBC output.”